An ancient city situated between Thebes and Mt. Helikon, on the right
bank of the Thespios (Kanavari) at the foot of the twin hills on which are the
villages of Thespiai (formerly Erimokastro) and Leondari (formerly Kaskaveli).
Inhabited from Neolithic times, Thespiai played an important part as a trading center in the Mycenaean era, thanks to its port Kreusis. Seven hundred Thespians fought in the ranks of the Greeks at Thermopylai in 480 B.C., and Xerxes razed the city. It was rebuilt by Athens, which provoked the lasting hostility of Thebes. From 447 to 423 Thespiai headed two of the 11 Boiotian districts; they included the Sanctuary of the Muses, Eutresis, Leuktra, Kreusis, and three independent cities from 338: Thisbe and the ports of Siphai and Chorsiai. The city lost many men at the battle of Delion in 424. Thebes razed the ramparts of the city in 423; the Spartans rebuilt them after 386, and in 371 Epaminondas made Thespiai a kome of Thebes. At his death (362) the city was restored, minted coins, and in 338 became one of the first cities of the new Boiotian Confederacy. From then on it remained prosperous until the Late Empire. The Attalids of Pergamon endowed it handsomely; the city enjoyed good relations with Macedonia, then with Rome which granted it the status of civitas libera et immunis (47 B.C.). Thespiai organized the Panhellenic festivals and contests in honor of the Muses (Mouseia) and Eros (Erotideia).
The ancient city, which was excavated in the 19th c. has almost completely disappeared. S of the Kanavari river was a Byzantine surrounding wall (Kastro) whose demolition yielded more than 400 inscriptions and reliefs, some statues and architectural fragments (in the Thebes Museum and the National Museum). In the Kastro was discovered the Temple of the Muses (16.80 x 35.60 m) mentioned by Pausanias. The remains of a Temple of Apollo dating from the 5th c., a peripteral building with slender columns, were uncovered 2 km to the SW. To the E of the Kastro, on the Leuktra road, stood the great limestone lion on which the Lion of Chaironeia was modeled. The lion dominated a rectangular peribolos (32 x 23 m) within which were found a large number of cremated bodies, 5th c. vases, terracottas, and bronze and iron objects. In front of the lion were nine aligned stelai bearing the names of 102 Thespians who fell at the battle of Delion (424), as well as a paved pathway lined with tombs.
Twelve km to the S in the Livadostro bay was the port of Thespiai, Kreusis. It was protected by a 4th c. fortress; the rampart, which is built in regular courses, has several square towers and an older round tower at the top. At the E end of the bay of Domvraina is the port of Siphai (Aliki) whose fortress, built on a steep rock, is well preserved. At the summit (Mavrovouni) of the coastal chain, on the road from Thespiai to Siphai, is a square 4th c. tower; close by, inside a surrounding wall of partly polygonal masonry are the remains of an archaic temple, possibly dedicated to Artemis Agrotera. The port of Chorsiai (Paralia) is farther W, 8 km S of Thisbe on the bay of Sarandi; overlooking it is a fortress built on a rocky spur that runs down from Mt. Helikon. N of the fortress are the foundations of a Temple of Hera mentioned in an inscription.
P. Roesch, ed.
This text is from: The Princeton encyclopedia of classical sites, Princeton University Press 1976. Cited Nov 2002 from Perseus Project URL below, which contains bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.
Thespiai (also Thespeia or Thespia, Eth. Thespieus, Thespiensis, fern.
Thespias, Thespis: Adj. Thespiakos, Thespius, Thespiacus). An ancient city of
Boeotia, situated at the foot of Mt. Helicon, looking towards the south and the
Crissaean gulf, where stood its port-town Creusa or Creusis. (Strab. ix. p. 409;
Paus. ix. 26. § 6; Steph. B. s. v.) Thespiae was said to have derived its name
from Thespia, a daughter of Asopus, or from Thespius, a son of Erechtheus, who
migrated from Athens. (Paus. l. c.; Diod. iv. 29.) The city is mentioned in the
catalogue of Homer. (Il. ii. 498.) Thespiae, like Plataea, was one of the Boeotian
cities inimical to Thebes, which circumstance affected its whole history. Thus
Thespiae and Plataea were the only two Boeotian cities that refused to give earth
and water to the heralds of Xerxes. (Herod. vii. 132.) Seven hundred Thespians
joined Leonidas at Thermopylae; and they remained to perish with the 300 Spartans,
when the other Greeks retired. (Herod. vii. 202, 222.) Their city was burnt by
Xerxes, when he overran Boeotia, and the inhabitants withdrew to Peloponnesus.
(Herod. viii. 50.) The survivors, to the number of 1800, fought at the battle
of Plataea in the following year, but they were reduced to such distress that
they had no heavy armour. (Herod. ix. 30.) After the expulsion of the Persians
from Greece, Thespiae was rebuilt, and the inhabitants recruited their numbers
by the admission of strangers as citizens. (Herod. viii. 75.) At. the battle of
Delium (B.C. 424) the Thespians fought on the left wing against the Athenians,
and were almost all slain at their post. (Thuc. iv. 93, seq.) In the following
year (B.C. 423), the Thebans destroyed the walls of Thespiae, on the charge of
Atticism, the Thespians being unable to offer any resistance in consequence of
the heavy loss they had sustained while fighting upon the side of the Thebans.
(Thuc. iv. 133.) In B.C. 414 the democratical party at Thespiae attempted to overthrow
the existing government; but the latter receiving assistance from Thebes, many
of the conspirators withdrew to Athens. (Thuc. vi. 95.) In B.C. 372 the walls
of Thespiae were again destroyed by the Thebans. According to Diodorus (xv.46)
and Xenophon (Hell. vi. 3. § 1) Thespiae was at this time destroyed by the Thebans,
and the inhabitants driven out of Boeotia; but this happened after the battle
of Leuctra, and Mr. Grote (Hist, of Greece, vol. x. p. 219) justly infers from
a passage in Isocrates that the fortifications of the city were alone demolished
at this period. Pausanias expressly states that a contingent of Thespians was
present in the Theban army at the time of the battle of Leuctra, and availed themselves
of the permission of Epaminondas to retire before the battle. (Paus. ix. 13. §
8, ix. 14. § 1.) Shortly afterwards the Thespians were expelled from Boeotia by
the Thebans. (Paus. ix. 14. § 2.) Thespiae was afterwards rebuilt, and is mentioned
in the Roman wars in Greece. (Polyb. xxvii. 1; Liv. xlii. 43.) In the time of
Strabo, Thespiae and Tanagra were the only places in Boeotia that deserved the
name of cities. (Strab. ix. p. 410.) Pliny calls Thespiae a free town ( liberum
oppidum, iv. 7. s. 12). It is also mentioned by Ptolemy (iii. 15. § 20) and in
the Antonine Itinerary (p. 326, ed. Wess.), and it was still in existence in the
sixth century (Hierocl. p. 645, ed. Wess.).
Eros or Love was the deity chiefly worshipped at Thespiae; and the earliest representation of the god in the form of a rude stone still existed in the city in the time of Pausanias (ix. 27. § 1). The courtesan Phryne, who was born at Thespiae, presented to her native city the celebrated statue of Love by Praxiteles, which added greatly to the prosperity of the place in consequence of the great numbers of strangers who visited the city for the purpose of seeing it. (Dicaearch. § 25, ed. Muller; Cic. Verr. iv. 2; Strab. ix. p. 410, who erroneously calls the courtesan Glycera; Paus. ix. 27. § 3.) In the time of Pausanias there was only an imitation of it at Thespiae by Menodorus. Among the other works of art in this city Pausanias noticed a statue of Eros by Lysippus, statues of Aphrodite and Phryne by Praxiteles; the agora, containing a statue of Hesiod; the theatre, a temple of Aphrodite Melaenis, a temple of the Muses, containing their figures in stone of small size, and an ancient temple of Hercules. (Paus. ix. 27.) Next to Eros, the Muses were specially honoured at Thespiae; and the festivals of the Erotidia and Mouseia celebrated by the Thespians on Mt. Helicon, at the end of every four years, are mentioned by several ancient writers. (Paus. ix. 31. § 3; Plut. Amat. 1; Athen. xiii. p. 561; K. F. Hermann, Lehrbuch der gottesd. Alterth. § 63, n. 4.) Hence the Muses are frequently called Thespiades by the Latin writers. (Varr. L. L. vii. 2; Cic. Verr. ii. 4; Ov. Met. v. 310; Plin. xxxvi. 5. s. 4, § 39, ed. Sillig.)
The remains of Thespiae are situated at a place called Lefka from a deserted village of that name near the village of Erimokastro or Rimokastro. Unlike most other Greek cities, it stands in a plain surrounded by hills on either side, and its founders appear to have chosen the site in consequence of its abundant supply of water, the sources of the river Kanavari rising here. Leake noticed the foundations of an oblong or oval enclosure, built of very solid masonry of a regular kind, about half a mile in circumference; but he observes that all the adjacent ground to the SE. is covered, like the interior of the fortress, with ancient foundations, squared stones, and other remains, proving that if the enclosure was the only fortified part of the city, many of the public and private edifices stood without the walls. The site of some of the ancient temples is probably marked by the churches, which contain fragments of architraves, columns, and other ancient remains.
This text is from: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD). Cited June 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
(Thespeiai and Thespiai), or Thespea (Thespeia, Thespia). Now Eremo or Rimokastro; an ancient town in Boeotia on the southeastern slope of Mount Helicon, at no great distance from the Crissaean Gulf. It was burned to the ground by the Persians, but subsequently rebuilt. At Thespiae was preserved the celebrated marble statue of Eros by Praxiteles, who had given it to Phryne, by whom it was presented to her native town. From the vicinity of Thespiae to Mount Helicon the Muses are called Thespiades, and Helicon itself is named the Thespia rupes.
This text is cited Oct 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
Thespiae. City of Boeotia,
west of Thebes.
Thespiae was said to have been founded by Thespius, a son of Erechtheus, king of Athens. It is at the court of Thespius that Heracles undertook the first of his wondrous deeds (though not one of the 12 labors), the killing of the lion of Cithaeron.
Thespiae was also linked to one version of the story of Narcissus. In that version, Narcissus was an extremely beautiful young man from Thespiae who despised the pleasures of love. He was loved by another young man of the neighborhood whom he kept turning down until one day, he offered the importunate lover a sword that the young man used to kill himself at Narcissus' front door, but not without cursing him before dying. And so it happened that, a little while later, Narcissus saw his reflection on the surface of a pond near a spring and fell in love with himself to the point that he too killed himself in despair. Where his blood fell on the grass, a flower grew that was called narcissus. After that, the people of Thespiae instituted a cult to Eros, the god of love, whose power had been so manifested.
Thespiae was located next to Mount Helicon, the mountain of the Muses, where a temple was dedicated to them. The Muses were said to be daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne (the Greek word for “memory”), herself the daughter of Uranus (“heaven” in Greek) and Gea (“earth” in Greek), and were conceived during nine consecutive nights of love between them in Pieria, a region of Macedon close to Mount Olympus. Under the leadership of Apollo, whose temple at Delphi was not far away from Mount Helicon, they presided, not only over music in the usual sense, but over all activities of the mind. In the list that became classic over time, they were;
•Calliope, first in dignity, muse of epic poetry;
•Clio, muse of history;
•Polyhymnia, muse of lyric poetry, mime, learning and rhetoric;
•Euterpe, muse of flute music;
•Terpsichore, muse of dance and choral singing;
•Erato, muse of lyric poetry;
•Melpomene, muse of tragedy;
•Thalia, muse of comedy and pastoral poetry;
•Urania, muse of astronomy.
Bernard Suzanne (page last updated 1998), ed.
This extract is cited July 2003 from the Plato and his dialogues URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks.
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